Hey LEGO, Why Are You So Grumpy? Study Wishes Those Frowns Were Upside Down

The night is dark and full of terrors, but playing with toys is always such a happy respite from the woes of the world. Like LEGO toys! They’re great and creative and why is that little man glaring at me? Does he hate me? Why is everything so sad? A new study says the happy faces on LEGO people are decreasing and the grumpies are gaining. And that can apparently have an effect on kids and how they play.

This news comes from a University of Canterbury robot expert, via NPR News.

“It is important to study how to create appropriate expressions and how these expressions are perceived by the users. Children’s toys and how they are perceived can have a significant impact on children,’’ says  Dr. Christoph Bartneck, who has studied all 6000 LEGO mini-figures. He’s presenting a paper on his findings at the First International Conference on Human-Agent Interaction in Sapporo, Japan in August.

“We cannot help but wonder how the move from only positive faces to an increasing number of negative faces impacts on how children play,” he adds.

To execute the study, Bartneck and his colleagues photographed all 3,655 mini-figures that were released between 1975 and 2010, identifying 628 different heads.

Participants then were asked to rate the emotional expressions of all the faces using six scales: anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise.”

And the results were (drumroll, please and thank you…):
— 324 faces were rated as showing “happiness.”
— 192 reflected “anger.”
— 49 showed “sadness.”
— 28 seemed to show “disgust.”
— 23 were classified under “surprise.”
— 11 registered as “fear.”

Even though about half fall into the happy category (hurray!) Bartneck says that”we can observe a trend over time that the proportion of happy faces decrease and the proportion of angry faces increase.”

It’s “a sign of the times,” he adds. “If you go into a toy store these days what you see is that a lot of the themes and topics, particularly for the toys for the boys, are very rich in conflict and war and weapons.”

So if you’re a parent worried that perhaps your kids are getting too much negativity off those little guys, Bartneck has a simple solution: Switch heads with another figure.

Concern about angry faces on LEGO mini-figures [University of Canterbury]
Legos Are Getting Angrier And That’s Not Funny, Study Says [NPR]